Butler turns to Brandon Miller

INDIANAPOLIS — Butler found its next basketball coach the same place it usually does — inside the family.

The Bulldogs announced Saturday that they were promoting recently hired assistant Brandon Miller to replace Brad Stevens. The decision came three days after Stevens surprised everyone by taking the head job with the Boston Celtics.

But like Stevens and his predecessors Todd Lickliter and Thad Matta, the Bulldogs didn’t have to look far to find the next coach.

“I’m just thrilled that I have an opportunity to coach the guys that are here right now,” Miller said. “We hope to continue this success in our own way and be the best that we can be moving forward.”

Before returning to Butler, Miller worked under Illinois coach John Groce as an assistant for one season.

Only two candidates’ names were seriously bandied about — Miller, a former Butler star who was just rehired by Stevens as an assistant coach in April, and Michigan assistant LaVall Jordan, another Butler alum and former Bulldogs assistant.

Miller met with athletic director Barry Collier on Wednesday and Thursday before meeting with Collier and Butler President James Danko on Friday. He was officially offered the position Saturday.

“We’re very confident and looking forward to our first year in the Big East with Brandon Miller as our head coach,” Collier said.

“He’s a very intense, hard-working individual. Most importantly, his values are student-oriented, and he tries to lead people to even greater things. Brandon was the best choice for our coach at this time.”

Collier met with the Butler players shortly after Stevens announced his move to Boston to hear what they were looking for in the next head coach.

“There wasn’t undue concern,” Collier said. “(The players) want somebody that understands Butler. I heard consistent confidence we’d get a good person because it’s a good job, and we believe in finding someone who will do things the way we do them.”

Senior forward Khyle Marshall said it was important that the new coach had been with the program already.

“I’m very happy to have Brandon as our head coach,” Marshall said. “We’re all just very excited and ready to get started.”

For Miller, it’s a remarkable ascension after taking a one-year hiatus from college basketball just two years ago.

Miller takes over a program that was the national runner-up in 2010 and 2011, and then reached the regional semifinals last season after missing the tourney in 2012.

The NCAA tournament success turned Butler into one of the most recognizable mid-major programs in the nation and allowed the school to move from the Horizon League to a much stronger Atlantic 10 last season and now on to the re-formed Big East.

But the Bulldogs couldn’t afford a protracted search for Stevens’ successor.
Recruiting kicks into high gear next week, and the Bulldogs are scheduled to make an overseas trip to Australia in early August.

“I think bringing in somebody who’s been here and been part of that success and been able to experience it is really going to make the transition easier,” junior guard Alex Barlow said.

Miller knows the Bulldogs’ background as well as anybody.

A native of New Castle, Ind. — the same hometown as UCLA coach Steve Alford — Miller started his college career at Southwest Missouri State. He transferred to Butler in 1999 and became one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in school history.

“I look at the university and the basketball program and the first thing I think about is the Butler Way,” Miller said. “This university is a value-based place and that will not change. This is a very, very special place.”

He finished his career with 1,121 points, 189 3-pointers and 305 assists, earning all-league honors and all-league defensive honors. As a senior in 2003, he was the co-MVP of the Bulldogs team that beat Louisville in the NCAA tourney and reached the regional semifinals for the first time in four decades.

Following his college career, Miller joined Matta’s staff at Ohio State. Miller took a year off from coaching in 2011-12 season, returning last season as a special assistant for Groce at Illinois.

Stevens then rehired Miller in April after his top assistant, Matthew Graves, accepted the head coaching job at South Alabama.

“When I think of a basketball coach, that’s what I hope to be,” Miller said of Stevens.

Miller plans to hold a team meeting Sunday before getting back on the court for practices and preparation.

“I think my coaching style and the way I’m going to coach isn’t going to change what’s been important in the past,” Miller said. “The most important thing is getting the right people on the bus.”

Miller admitted that he and Stevens share similar philosophies and ways of coaching. Even off the court, the two appear very similar — family by their side, constantly using words like “humbled” and “blessed” to describe being at Butler.

But Miller made it clear that he would not simply be continuing the work Stevens left behind.

“I’m not Brad Stevens. I’m Brandon Miller,” Miller said. “I will tweak and adjust in my own way, be my own person. I’ll be Brandon Miller and coach accordingly.”

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